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  • Frequently asked questions

    What is physical medicine and rehabilitation?

    Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), also called physiatry, is the branch of medicine emphasizing the prevention, evaluation, and treatment of disorders that can produce disabling conditions, particularly those related to the nerves, muscles and bones.

    Physical medicine and rehabilitation is one of 24 medical specialties certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

    Physical medicine and rehabilitation provides integrated care in the treatment of a wide variety of conditions, from brain injury to low back pain. Physiatrists complete four years of additional training after medical school prior to beginning their medical practice. Those with subspecialty certification have additional training as well.

    How do rehabilitation physicians diagnose?

    Rehabilitation physicians take the time needed to accurately pinpoint the source of an ailment.

    Their specific diagnostic tools are the same as those used by other physicians (medical histories, physical examinations, laboratory tests, and imaging studies), with the addition of special techniques such as electrodiagnosis (EMG/NCS) that assist in understanding nerve and muscle function.

    What is the rehabilitation physician's role in treatment?

    After a diagnosis is made, rehabilitation physicians design a treatment plan, along with the involved individual, that can be carried out by the individual, or with the help of the rehabilitation team.

    This team may include other medical professionals, such as neurologists, psychiatrists, orthopedic surgeons, and urologists; and other health professionals, such as nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, therapeutic recreation specialists, vocational counselors, psychologists and social workers.

    PM&R physicians may also inject medications into soft tissues, joints, or the spinal column to decrease pain, spasticity or dystonia.

    What is the aim of physical medicine and rehabilitation?

    Physical medicine and rehabilitation is often called the quality-of-life profession because its aim is to enhance quality of life and ability to participate in the community.

    The job of a rehabilitation physician is to treat any disability resulting from disease or injury involving any organ system.

    The focus is not on one part of the body, but instead on the development of a comprehensive treatment program for putting the pieces of a person's life back together - medically, socially, emotionally and vocationally - after injury or disease. That may involve a team. The rehabilitation physician’s role is to help facilitate that team’s functioning and effectiveness, in part by managing the medical issues that can influence function and the ability to participate in a rehabilitation program.